In many ways, the musicians and dancers of the San Francisco Ballet are like one big family. A longtime member of this family—Craig Reiss—violinist and all-around-great-storyteller, shares some highlights of seasons past.
“I joined the San Francisco Ballet Orchestra in 1993. Before that time I had played many of the great ballet scores with other symphony orchestras. From my privileged position at the edge of the pit, every once in a while, I get to sneak a look at the dancers and I remember being blown away the first time I saw the brilliant Evelyn Cisneros and Tony Randazzo in Swan Lake for example, and more recently, Maria Kotchekova and Joan Boada in Romeo and Juliet—breathe new life and emotion into this familiar music. Also, I’ll never forget Pascal Molat as Petrouchka. I felt like I finally understood what that music was about.
“I’ve been very lucky to work closely with the dancers in some of the productions. When we performed the Dvorak Piano Quintet in Val Caniparoli’s Ibsen’s House, it was such a treat to play this gorgeous chamber music and to see Lorena Feijoo turn into a fiery Hedda Gabler.
I also play mandolin in the orchestra, most often for Romeo and Juliet where I am constantly shuttling back and forth from playing mandolin in back of the pit to the front of the 2nd violin section. When we did Kenneth MacMillan’s Winter Dreams, the music called for a string band of mandolins, guitars and balalaikas! As the leader of that band, for the first time, I felt a great sympathy with our music director, Martin West, as I had to coordinate the beginning of each number and corresponding tempi with the dancers’ movements to ensure that the band kept time with the steps. Not so easy!
“My other favorite moments were when Davit Karapetyan proposed to Vanessa Zahorian onstage at the end of Romeo and Juliet. And… who could forget the audience’s uproarious laughter at the sight of two Borzois h#!%mping onstage during the hunting scene in Giselle?”
SFBO Musicians — In addition to performing with the SF Ballet and SF Opera Orchestras, Craig is also the founding member of the Eos Ensemble and frequently perform with other Bay Area ensembles. On some of his latest projects:
“The Eos Ensemble has been immersed in French Chamber music this season, performing the String Quartets of Debussy and Ravel in the Fall, and in our upcoming concert at the Throckmorton Theater in Mill Valley on May 15th, performing Piano Trios of Debussy and Ravel with guest pianist and master Ravel interpreter Gwendolyn Mok. We will also perform selected French miniatures, including Debussy’s The Girl with the Flaxen Hair, and Faure’s beautiful Elegy for cello and piano.
“I was also fortunate to take part in the new SF Opera Lab ChamberWORKS series where we performed a very unique program with Adler Fellow Julie Adams in works for soprano and chamber ensemble as well as the Shostakovich String Quartet No. 8. This program took place in the beautiful new Taube Atrium Theater in the Veterans Building, and will hopefully be one of many future concerts there.
“But my most eclectic and fun gig recently was playing mandolin as part of the San Francisco Symphony’s SoundBox in the music of Frank Zappa!”
SFBO Musicians — Your daughter, Alana, studies ballet at the Stapleton School of Performing Arts. What have been some of her favorite pieces this season at the San Francisco Ballet?
Alana Reiss: “Some of my favorite ballets this season have been Swan Lake, Coppelia, The Nutcracker, and especially the opening night Gala.”
SFBO Musicians — Alana, what is it like to come to the ballet and to get to see your dad performing with the Orchestra?
Alana — “It has been amazing to see my dad as a part of the San Francisco Ballet Orchestra. It completely changed my perspective on the whole production to have a parent who plays the music. One of my absolute favorite things is getting to see all of the behind-the-scenes stuff that no one else does. Seeing the stage and scenery and even meeting dancers adds a completely new element to the ballets. I feel incredibly lucky to have these opportunities especially because I am a ballerina myself and it helps me grow and learn as a dancer from some of the best in the world.”
SFBO Musicians — Thank you, Alana and Craig, for graciously sharing your thoughts on the ballet season!
For everyone else, don’t miss the EOS Ensemble at Throckmorton Theatre in Mill Valley, CA on May 15, 2016 at 7:30pm. “Impressionism of Debussy and Ravel”